Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pre-School and Being Two

Alden started pre-school a week ago!  I am so far behind in writing updates – I feel like I’m missing major milestones.  Pre-school!  That hardly seems possible.  The first week, he was only there for ½ days and on Thursday he didn’t even go because we took the day to go to the state fair.  So, this has been his first week of going full days. 

 Being at pre-school and all the other transitions of summer has really brought out the two in Alden.  As in the terrible twos.  Not that he is terrible – Alden is charming, hilarious, cuddly, extremely empathetic, and loving.  He is full of hugs and snuggles – for his sister, us, the kittens, his grandparents.  He is concerned about knowing where everyone he loves is at all times and adores being with his family.  When Nonnie and Papa were here last week, Alden was beyond thrilled.  The first morning at breakfast he kept pointing at each of them and declaring, “Nonnie! Papa!  Here!!” as if he could hardly believe they were sitting right before him (how did they get out of the phone where they usually live?)  This week, Kai is at Nonnie and Papa’s house visiting while Alden is with us.  He looked confusedly at the phone as we were doing FaceTime one evening and said, “La La – come here” as though he wanted her to pop out of the phone and get back where she belonged – with him.  At home.  Technology is so confusing.

 But, for all of Alden’s charm and sweetness, Alden is also incredibly stubborn and strong-willed.  And, all these transitions have really tested him – he is looking for a modicum of control over his ever-changing world and has tried to exert that control over decisions that involve him.  Like what to eat.  Or wear.  Or what to do.  And, because Alden has a limited (although ever expanding) vocabulary and can be difficult to understand, his decisions are often misinterpreted, causing him mounting frustration.  It results in a kind of perverse guessing game where he says something and we don’t understand so we start guessing, “do you want oatmeal?” and he responds, “NO! NO! Oa-mal.”  Then he repeats his original request.  We guess again, “do you want yogurt?” and he responds, “NOO!  NO! o-urt”.  Eventually, it gets to the point that even if we guess correctly, he is so mad that he refuses the very thing that he originally wanted.  Or, we guess right straight away and he agrees that we have guessed what he wants but then he promptly changes his mind -- maybe because it seems like it was no longer his decision – and refuses the thing he requested once we offer it to him.  It’s a bit crazy making, but I also understand that he is grappling with a lot of change, doing a fantastic job holding it together at school every day, and needing to just melt a few (dozen) times a day with us.  Hopefully, as he settles into the new routine, the tantrums will subside.

 Other than tantrums at home, Alden is doing fantastic adjusting to school.  He is participating in activities and seems excited to be there.  When I picked him up on Monday, he told me “no go.  Stay.  Stay here.”  So, that was a very positive sign.  Of course, it was followed by Tuesday.  On Tuesday, he was the last child to be picked up.  When I walked in, he came tearing over to me and gave me the biggest hug.  He looked me in the eyes, with tears welling up a bit, and said, “I was scared.”  He was scared that all the other kids had left.  His teacher said when the other children left, Alden started to look worried and said, “where Mama go?” repeatedly.  She kept explaining to him that I was coming, and got him a snack and a game, but he continued to ask where I was.  I can’t believe that he was able to communicate so clearly about his feelings.  I hugged him tight and told him we would always pick him up. 

 Which brings us to today.  Today I’m in Los Angeles and Eric is on a river trip, so our friends are picking Alden up from school and I won’t see him until really late.  I explained to Alden repeatedly that he was going to go to Will’s house after school and that I would pick him up at Will’s house.  I told him that I was coming home – but not until after bedtime.  At first he said “no, no Will house” but I said that I had to be on an airplane and the airplane would not get me home until after bedtime.  And then I repeated that he was going to go to Will’s house to play and I would come get him after bed time.  He looked at me with his big, imploring eyes and said, “oh-tay.”  He seemed to understand.  Sometimes the work/parent balance is so hard. 

 Preschool.  Communication.  Feelings.  The need for control and decision making authority.  The strong desire to be understood.  Alden is definitely growing up.  If you ask him if he’s a big boy, he denies it.  He proclaims that he’s our baby.  But, his babyhood is nearly gone – despite his proclamations otherwise.  Even though the tantrums are hard, I so wish I could bottle up his snuggles and hugs and affection…. I wish I could hold onto his babyness for a moment longer even as I’m so anxious to continue to get to know the amazing little boy he is becoming.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Halfway through summer!

I knew this summer was going to go fast -- but, it has blown even my expectations.  I was with a close colleague of mine at a meeting earlier this week and commenting on how scattered I was that morning and she said to me, "of course you are! It's summer.  You're always like this in the summer."  So true.  Summer is challenging.  It's a ton of fun, but hard to maintain the juggle with so much variety week to week. 

Kai is having a great summer.  She LOVED art camp.  No surprise there.  The STEM camp she was at the following week was not as big of a hit.  She thought the counselors were too strict and it was a bit like school.  Kailey loves school (so much so that when I told her we could all go to the beach for a long weekend but she would have to miss a couple of days of 3rd grade she told me she didn't want to go!  So, now, my mom is coming to watch the kids and Eric and I get to have an extended beach weekend.  Win-win!) Anyway -- but, according to Kai, the summer is not for school.  I think she would have loved the right kind of STEM camp -- but, it does sound like they were basically doing variations on the same activity every day and she got a bit bored. 

During those first two weeks of summer, Alden was with Linda Ann.  But, for the last two weeks, we've been sans nanny.  We went camping with three other families for the 4th of July weekend and into the next week, which was a blast.  Kids love camping.  A few notes on our camping trip this year.  First, the minivan is amazing.  I really cannot fathom how we ever went camping before.  I'm kidding.  Kind of.  It was super nice to be able to take everything we wanted and still have plenty of leg room to stretch out for the kids. Second, doing a big camping trip every year is such a good way to mark development.  Year to year it is crazy how much the kids change.   Kai had so much fun riding her bike around the campground and playing with her friends.  Last year she wasn't riding a bike -- and this year she is tearing it up around the campsite and finding secret hideouts!  Alden also had a blast and got so fast riding his balance bike around the campground.  He also really enjoyed playing in the ashes in the fire (so awesome) and playing in the hammock.  Last year, Alden was still basically a baby and needed a lot of supervision at the campground.  This year, he was running between the three campsites and playing along with all the other kids.  There is still plenty he cannot do and it's tough to keep up -- but, he is determined to be part of the mix.  Third, we are good camp cooks! We had the best meals -- including a side of salmon over the open fire and a lemon meringue pie! Something about eating outside makes the food taste so much better.  And, my favorite part of the camping trip was watching the sunset on the last night.  Alden was so enchanted by the sun going to sleep and watched in utter fascination. It was adorable. 

This week has been a bit of a cluster.  I'm in Los Angeles Monday, Tuesday and Friday.  Kai is at an aquatics camp that is a 1/2 hour out of our way in the morning (an hour round trip).  Luckily, a friend is picking her up every night -- so we're only having to deal with the morning difficulties.  Alden was supposed to start his new school this week but we delayed another week since he can only go half-days the first week and with my travel and Kai's camp, it was too much.  So, he's been going to the back-up daycare provider we've used many times the last year.  Alden is used to going there with Will (they would be there together on the days that Linda Ann was sick or unavailable).  But, this was his first time going without Will.  He has cried at drop-off every day.  Eric did it the first two days and said it was hard.  Today was my turn.  It's heart-wrenching to leave your child as they scream and reach for you.  We never had to go through that with Kailey.  She was always so independent.  But, Alden is so much more like me when it comes to separation issues and sleep issues.  I don't think he is as anxious as I was, but he definitely trends towards my temperament.  So, it was really hard to leave him this morning.  I called the daycare a little while ago and they said he's been awesome all day.  She told me, "he is such an amazing and sweet little boy.  He fits right in.  A lot of kids have trouble, but he does fantastic."  So nice to hear since he was struggling a bit this morning.  Hopefully next week when he is transitioning to his new school, we will have an easier time. 

The final half of the summer is even crazier than the first.  I have a ton of travel and a lot of it conflicts with Eric's work events.  I haven't quite sorted out child care for all of it yet.  My former self would be tied in knots over the lack of certainty. But, if 8 years of working parenthood has taught me anything, it's taught me that flexibility is the name of the game.  So, I'm sure I'll figure out some way of having me in Philadelphia while Eric is doing a weekends' worth of events.